Down East 2013 ©
Connor’s many corners: MaineToday Media publisher Richard Connor gave an intriguing speech to the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce in Augusta on Jan. 20. According to an account  by reporter John Hale in the Jan. 21 Capital Weekly headlined “MaineToday publisher believes newspapers have turned the corner,” Connor was bullish on the prospects of the three daily papers he purchased last June, the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.
“These newspapers were all on the verge of bankruptcy,” Connor said. “We’ve been profitable since July. We made as much since July as they made in the entire previous year. The two most profitable legs of the three-legged stool are the KJ and the Sentinel.”
Since he bought the papers, Connor has eliminated more than 100 positions, he said. He declined to say whether further reductions were planned, although well-placed sources in the industry say, profitable or not, another round of layoffs is likely before spring.
As for the editorial direction of the papers, Connor said that would be up to his local management team. “These papers will all run themselves,” he said. “It would be crazy for me to offer my opinions on the state. Local people will be running these papers on a day-to-day basis.” (It should be noted that Connor writes frequent columns on national issues and sometimes directs editorial writers at the Press Herald to take particular stands.)
Connor also indicated his preference for good news over muckraking. “People generally like to live here. We ought to point that out – not that we ought to give up our watchdog role or not point out when we think things are being done wrong.”
Connor admitted the consolidation of printing operations at the company’s South Portland plant had resulted in some problems in distributing the KJ and Sentinel in central Maine, particularly when it snows.
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Capital Weekly.)
Turning a corner: MaineToday Media finally confirmed what had been common knowledge in the Portland real-estate community for weeks. As previously reported here , the company is moving its headquarters  and news room to One City Center in downtown Portland.
Other operations will be relocated to the company’s South Portland facility. The shift from its old building at 390 Congress Street will begin in early February and conclude by July. The Congress Street site has been sold to a developer.
Less Soup: The Village Soup newspapers announced another round of layoffs this week, although this time, none of those let go were from the editorial side. (Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Soup papers.)
According to company vice president Ron Belyea, five people were let go: two ad designers, two part-time circulation people, and one sales person. The cuts are temporary and will be re-evaluated in May, Belyea said.
He said he’s seen signs in recent months that the precipitous decline in print advertising revenues has come to an end. “Things have flattened out,” he said. “We’re staying about even. I haven’t seen improvement yet, but I don’t think we’re in the freefall we’ve been in.”
Village Soup also announced this week that it had made its first sale of its Web platform design . The buyer is the Wareham Week newspaper of Wareham, Mass.
Talk and twang: The Arbitron Fall 2009 ratings for the Portland radio market were released on Jan. 29, and news-talk WGAN (560 AM)  scored a solid win, pulling in a 9.8 share (share represents the percentage of the radio audience listening in an average quarter hour between 6 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week) for the top spot. WGAN’s numbers are up significantly from both the Spring 2009 ratings (7.7 share) and Fall 2008 (9.3).
WPOR (101.9 FM)  – like WGAN, owned by Saga Communications – finished second with a 6.9 share, a solid jump for the country music station over the 6.7 it pulled last spring or the 4.7 it earned a year ago.
Another country station, WTHT (99.9 FM)  took third (6.2 share), followed by WFNK (107.5 FM)  and WJBQ (97.9 FM)  in a tie for fourth (5.6 share). Rounding out the top ten were WHOM (94.9 FM) , WBLM (102.9 FM) , WMGX (93.1 FM) , WCLZ (98.9 FM) , and WYNZ (100.9 FM) .
The ratings released Jan. 29 do not include non-commercial stations such as Maine Public Broadcasting Network, but I hope to have those numbers early next week.
Presidential relocation: In its weekly newsletter, the Maine Press Association reports that its president, Paula Gibbs, is leaving her job as editor of the Wiscasset Newspaper  in February.
Gibbs is relocating to Harrison, where she plans to freelance (good luck with that). Her term as president expires in October.
Meanwhile, Wiscasset Newspaper publisher Mary Brewer told the MPA she’s accepting applications from anyone interested in taking over the editorship.
Light out: The mysterious “Ellie Light” has been identified. And she’s a guy.
“Light” wrote letters defending the Obama administration to dozens of newspapers across the country, always identifying “herself” as a resident of each paper’s circulation area. Many publications, including the Bangor Daily News, the Free Press in Rockland and the Portsmouth Herald published the letters .
In an editor’s note on Jan. 29, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported receiving a letter from “Light,” but didn’t run it because “no verification information was provided.”
Now, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the newspaper that first exposed the “Light” show, has uncovered “her” real identity .
“Light” is actually Winston Steward of Frazier Park, Calif., a fifty-one-year-old health care worker. According to a woman who identified herself as Steward’s wife (he told the Plain Dealer they were divorced), he used the phony name because he feared he’d be attacked by “right-wing crazies” if his identity became known.
Deep story from the deep woods: Hey, was that actual journalism  in the Jan. 29 Bangor Daily News?
Reporter Diana Bowley dug hard for the facts behind a costly new camp for game wardens being built by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife near Baker Lake, about 100 miles north of Greenville. The structure may end up costing taxpayers as much as $175,000 at a time when the department is pleading poverty and asking for hefty fee increases from those who hunt, trap, and fish.
Bowley’s report is balanced, well-organized and comprehensive. Her editors deserve credit for giving her the time and space this story deserved.
I hope this is the start of a trend.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com